This morning, I had the privilege of preaching on Ephesians 1:7-12. Here is a summary of my sermon in one sentence: Our redemption, through Jesus Christ and by God’s grace, is guaranteed by God’s faithfulness to His eternal purposes.
Archive for February, 2011
What is the Gospel? is a fantastic book! It’s one of the best books I’ve read in the past few years. It’s simple and to the point – that’s probably the reason I liked it so much. In just over 120 pages, Greg Gilbert clearly presents and explains the good news of Jesus Christ, which is the most important message the church has.
Gilbert’s book is part of a series based on the “Nine Marks of a Healthy Church,” a book written by Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hills Baptist Church in Washington D.C. According to Dever, the third mark is a biblical understanding of the gospel. What is the Gospel? is just that – a biblical understanding of the gospel.
Pastors should read this book to make sure they understand the gospel first, and then so they can preach it more clearly to their congregations. Elders and other church leaders should read it because understanding it is crucial to the health of the church. Teachers should read it in order to better teach it to their students. Parents should read this book to help themselves and their children understand it better. A non-Christian should read this book to know what the message of the gospel really is. Every Christian should read Gilbert’s book so they can at least answer the question, “Am I believing the biblical gospel or a false one?”
What is the Gospel? is arranged in such a way that it lends itself to being used as a textbook of sorts. Each chapter could be used as a single session or study (there is enough material in each of them to warrant it). Read Gilbert’s book, then buy an extra copy and give it away. I don’t normally say that about a book, but this one is that good!
In What is the Gospel?, Greg Gilbert writes:
At the end of the day, I wonder if the impulse to shove the cross out of the center of the gospel comes from the bare fact that the world just doesn’t like the cross. At best they think it is a ridiculous fairy tale, and at worst, a monstrous lie. Really, that shouldn’t surprise us. Paul told us it would be the case. The message of the cross, he said, will be a stumbling block to some and foolishness to the rest!
Add to that the fact that we really want the world to be attracted to the gospel, and you can create enormous pressure on Christians to find a way not to have to talk about “bloody cross religion” quite so much. I mean, we want the world to accept the gospel, not laugh at it, right?
But really, we should just face it. The message of the cross is going to sound like nonsense to people around us. It’s going to make us Christians sound like fools, and it most certainly is going to undermine our attempts to “relate” to non-Christians and prove to them that we’re just as cool and harmless as the next guy. Christians can always get the world to think they are cool – right up to the moment they start talking about being saved by a crucified man. And that’s where coolness evaporates, no matter how carefully you’ve cultivated it.
Even so, Scripture makes it clear that the cross must remain at the center of the gospel. We cannot move it to the side, and we cannot replace it with any other truth as the heart, center, and fountainhead of the good news. To do so is to present the world with something that is not saving, and that is therefore not good news at all. (What is the Gospel?, pp. 109-110. Emphasis in the original.)
Greg Gilbert says that “inclusion in the Kingdom of God depends entirely on one’s response to the King” (What is the Gospel?, p. 93). Later in the chapter, he goes on to say,
Do you see what Jesus is claiming? He was saying that he himself fulfilled – all at the same time – the roles of the Davidic Messiah, the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, and Daniel’s Son of Man! Jesus took the divine nature of the Son of Man, joined it to the substitutionary suffering of the Servant, and finally combined all that with his messianic role. By the time Jesus finished gathering together all the threads of Jewish hope, this King was infinitely more than the earthly revolutionary the Jews were hoping for. He was the divine Servant-King, who would suffer and die for his people to win their salvation, make them righteous in his Father’s eyes, and bring them gloriously into his kingdom.
In light of all that, it’s no wonder that Jesus makes entrance into his kingdom depend solely on whether a person repents of sin and trusts in him and his atoning work on the cross. When Jesus talks about “the gospel of the kingdom,” his point is not just that the kingdom has come. It is that the kingdom has come and you can be included in it if you are united to Me, the King, by faith that I alone can save you from your sin.
Therefore, being a citizen of Christ’s kingdom is not a matter of just “living a kingdom life,” or “following Jesus’ example,” or “living like Jesus lived.” The fact is, a person can be a self-professed “Jesus-follower” or “kingdom-life liver” and still be outside the kingdom. You can live like Jesus lived all you want, but unless you’ve come to the crucified King in repentance and faith, relying on him alone as the perfect sacrifice for your sin and your only hope for salvation, you’re neither a Christian nor a citizen of his kingdom.
The way to be included in Christ’s kingdom is to come to the King, not just hailing him as a great example who shows us a better way to live, but humbly trusting him as the crucified and risen Lord who alone can release you from the sentence of death. At the end of the day, the only wat into the kingdom is through the blood of the King. (What is the Gospel, pp. 95-96. Emphasis his, not mine.)
John Bunyan, from his book The Pilgrim’s Progress, provides an excellent illustration of coming to faith in Jesus Christ for our salvation:
Now I saw in my dream, that the highway up which Christian was to go, was fenced on either side with a wall, and that wall was called Salvation. Up this way therefore did burdened Christian run, but not without great difficulty, because of the Load on his back.
He ran thus till he came at a place somewhat ascending, and upon that place stood a Cross, and a little below, in the bottom, a Sepulchre. So I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up with the Cross, his Burden loosed from his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble, and so continued to do, till it came to the mouth of the Sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more.
Then was Christian glad and lightsome, and said with a merry heart, “He hath given me Rest by his Sorrow, and Life by his Death.” Then he stood still a while to look and wonder; for it was very surprising to him, that the sight of the Cross should thus ease him of his Burden.
Because of the death of Jesus Christ, your burdens and mine (referring to the weight and magnitude of our sins) can be lifted. You and I don’t have to carry that heavy load (there’s a reason they call it a “burden”) forever. Take it to the Cross and it will fall away. Praise God!